Monday, September 01, 2008

New Orleans Cooking At Home (Including Recipe)...



Anyone like to add a favorite New Orleans Food Memory/Recipe?


The other night at a party someone brought up a restaurant that I had recently been touting, and whose chef I was calling a genius. "I ordered the steak and it was no better than anything I could have made at home," he said. I don't necessarily go around defending restaurants I like, although I do tend to run into people who "hate" a particular place that, it turns out, they've never eaten at, or maybe had one average meal and don't understand what the fuss is all about. There's also the inevitable backlash due to success and popularity among critics or the general public. People like to be first, they like to 'discover' new places, and then, when others 'discover' them too, the trashing begins. "Isn't what it used to be." "They've gone downhill." "Too expensive-prices have gone up way too high." "Service has gotten snotty." You get the picture. And do the chefs and staff get complacent and start turning out 'blah' meals, with the excitement of fresh success having worn off and the whole enterprise becoming a mere grind? Definitely. But more often than not, it is simply just what it is. One bad meal, or one bad dish.

And that brings me to the mirliton (above). A quirky squash that I've cooked with a lot, as it is very easy to prepare-simply boil until soft, or even eat raw in a salad like jicama. It is fairly cheap, 4/$1 at the local market, and goes by the name chayote. It is very popular in New Orleans, and I mentioned it briefly a couple of months ago when I was ravenously digesting New Orleans cookbooks, including a Paul Prudhomme number. http://dailycocaine.blogspot.com/2008/07/okra-how-i-long-for-thee.html So imagine my delight when I spotted "shrimp stuffed mirliton" on the small menu of a local hangout. But when I ordered said dish, it was a sad, flavorless afterthought, with two admittedly delicious shrimp on the dish, but the "stuffed" part of the dish was dubious-a thin layer of cheesy sauce with no discernible flavor. This dish should be bold, spicy, make you stand up and and get all tingly. Blandness is its enemy, as the mirliton is, after all, just a squash-it needs a helping hand.

So here's my version, Mirliton Stuffed with Andouille Sausage and Shrimp. It is inexpensive, and the key to the dish is a nicely spicy roux. Saute an onion in a mixture of butter and oil, then add a tablespoon or so of flour and stir a lot. Three kinds of pepper should be used: white, black, and most importantly, cayenne. Sprinkle liberally. Cook the shrimp shells in a cup of water, and use that to thin out the roux when necessary. Cook up the sausage separately, throw in the shrimp for two minutes, then scrape up the bits (deglaze) with a little white wine. Add it all to the thickened roux. In the meantime, you've boiled and halved the mirlitons, scraping out the rough stuff in the center. Pour the stuffing over the mirli's, then some bread crumbs and butter (and some cheese if you like), and toast to crunchiness under the broiler. Add some ribboned greens with garlic, and some nice Riesling.

This is a crowd pleaser, and as most people don't even know what the hell a mirliton/chayote is, it's also a good conversation starter. And also a way to save some money and cook at home. Whole thing less than $10 for four. Don't forget to pass the hot sauce. And please feel free to add your own New Orleans food memories/recipes...

Finished meal, with PP looking on...

video

Making a roux...